Shortness of breath and cancer

The most common side effect of lung cancer is dyspnea, better known as shortness of breath. 90% of Lung cancer patients experience this at some point, during, and even long after treatment has ended. In a Lung Cancer Alliance survey, lung cancer survivors of 5 or more years, still rated it as their most problematic issue. It isn’t only lung cancer patients who suffer from breathlessness. Approximately half of all cancer patients complain of breathlessness at some point. (1) Shortness of breath is sometimes called air hunger. Unfortunately, for many cancer patients, it’s a part of their everyday life, negatively impacting their ability to do the things they need and want to do.

Our Story

In the fall of 2015, Dan’s stage IV lung cancer had progressed in his lungs and had metastasized to his brain so it was time to change his treatment.  They put him on a new type of treatment called immunotherapy, specifically, Opdivo. We had big hopes for this new drug which had been having great results in many patients.

Within 3 weeks, Dan developed a cough.  Coughing was a known side effect of Opdivo. It was getting worse by the week. In November, less than two months into the treatment, we went away for a romantic weekend in St. Paul. We went on a tour of the St. Paul Cathedral and visited Landmark Center. We stayed at the Covington Inn, a floating bed and breakfast on a tug-boat sitting on the Mississippi River. Before leaving St. Paul, we walked along Summit Avenue, a historic district lined with well-preserved Victorian homes, including the Governor’s Mansion.

It was a turning point in our lives.

We got home in the afternoon and went to bed exhausted. Dan was in bed for days. It became nearly impossible for him to speak without breaking into a coughing fit. He had just walked over a mile down Summit Avenue, and a week later, could no longer walk across the room without having to sit down. He couldn’t get a deep breath.

“Helpless. Frustrating. Scary.”

Shortness of breath can feel like a tightness in the chest or an inability to take a deep enough breath. In 2015, my husband suffered from severe breathlessness.  I asked Dan to tell me in a few words what this felt like. He said, “Helpless. Frustrating. Scary, because as you continue to lose your breath, you know there’s a limit to what you can lose before you have a big problem. You see your everyday life getting more and more difficult. Just taking a shower is exhausting. Soon, you’re bedridden and hospice is the only thing you have to help. It’s really very sad.”

There are many causes of shortness of breath.

Among the causes of breathlessness in cancer patients (especially with advanced cancer) are:

  • pleural effusion (fluid on the lungs)
  • anemia (insufficient red blood cells to transport oxygen)
  • obstruction of airways due to tumors
  • lymphangitis (thickening of the lymphatics in the lung, sometimes caused by cancer cells)
  • removal of part of all of a lung
  • smoking-related lung issues
  • heart failure or damage
  • pulmonary toxicity caused by chemotherapy and/or radiation
  • fatigue and pain which make taking a deep breath difficult
  • an anxiety cycle which causes panic and a sensation of breathlessness.

Treatment Options

Shortness of breath
Lung function tests

Once your doctor determines the cause of your breathlessness, they will be able to give you some treatment options. The treatment for shortness of breath will depend on the cause of it. For example, if it’s caused by pleural effusion, the fluid around the lungs will need to be drained.

shortness of breath

We began an investigation into the matter with his medical team, including an oncologist and a pulmonologist. He had bloodwork, scans, breathing tests, and a bronchoscopy. We were told that Dan’s cough and shortness of breath were was not a side effect of the immunotherapy, as was previously thought. The treatment wasn’t working, so the cancer had been progressing. He had lymphangitic spread (2). This is a term used to describe the spread of cancer throughout the lungs. Cancer was filling his lungs and he couldn’t breathe.

“Do you have a healthcare directive?”

The doctors began talking about decisions that needed to be made at the end of life. “What about intubation?” “Have you reassessed your healthcare directive?” We had lived with Dan’s terminal cancer for over three years and yet we were surprised by these questions. It was like having cold water thrown on us.  It quickly brought the reality we were facing, into focus.

Along with attempts to ease the discomfort of breathlessness, Dan began one treatment after another. First, a traditional chemotherapy, and then two different targeted therapies, recently released by the FDA, each one after another. Finally, one worked, Tagrisso. It began killing cancer cells and he soon regained his lung function.

Next post…

Treatment options for shortness of breath include medical interventions, environmental changes, breathing techniques, and exercises to improve breathing. Be sure to read my next post to learn more about some solutions to shortness of breath. The link will go live when the post is published.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

1 Virtual Medical Center, Breathlessness in Cancer; https://www.myvmc.com/symptoms/breathlessness-in-cancer/

2 lymphangitic carcinomatosis (LIM-fan-JIH-tik KAR-sih-NOH-muh-TOH-sis) A condition in which cancer cells spread from the original (primary) tumor and invade lymph vessels (thin tubes that carry lymph and white blood cells through the body’s lymph system). The invaded lymph vessels then fill up with cancer cells and become blocked. Although lymphangitic carcinomatosis can occur anywhere in the body, it commonly happens in the lungs. It can happen in many types of cancer but is most common in breast, lung, colon, stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancer. Also called carcinomatous lymphangitis. (NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms)

 


Talk to Kids about Cancer

How do you talk to kids about cancer?

It’s not always easy to talk to kids about cancer (especially when it’s their mom or dad who has it). But it is important. One of the things that can make it hard to talk to kids about cancer is that they often keep their feelings hidden. One reason why they do this may surprise you.

Protecting their ParentsTalking to kids about cancer

As kids grow, they become more aware that their parents have fears and feelings of their own. When a parent is diagnosed with cancer, kids will try to ease their mom and dad’s stress by keeping their own worries to themselves. It’s their way of protecting their parents.

Unfortunately, this can cause a child’s imagination to run wild. They can end up thinking things are even worse than they are. And, that’s hard to do when you are dealing with cancer.

 

“Horriblizing”

A friend of ours has a perfect phrase for this. He calls it horribleizing. We horribleize things when we don’t have all the facts and our mind leaps to the worst possible outcome. Adults are great at this. Kids are even better!

The best way you can prevent this is by communicating well with your child. That doesn’t mean you have to tell them all the details. In fact, you shouldn’t. But, you do need to give them the information they want in honest, but broad terms. How do we do that when they aren’t expressing their concerns?

You might be surprised by how easy it can be to talk to kids about cancer.

  • Turn off the TV and other distractions. Talk to your child when it’s just the two of you. They will be far more likely to let down their guard when they don’t feel like a sibling will laugh at them or another parent will get upset. If you need to, take them out for lunch. People talk when they eat. It’s their social instinct. It’s much easier to talk to kids about cancer while eating an ice cream sundae.
  • Start by asking, “What kind of feelings/thoughts are you having about this?” or, “Are you feeling a little scared?”
  • When talking to your children, avoid giving them a worst-case scenario because they will grab it every time. For example, you wouldn’t ask your child, “Are you afraid that I’m going to die?” While they likely are, it’s far better to bring it out in a gentler way, such as asking, “What kind of things are you afraid of?”
  • Ask your child what questions they have. This is open-ended, but still, requires an answer.
  • The conversation doesn’t need to end after you answer one question. Your child might just be starting to open up to you. Follow up by asking, “Do you have any other questions?”
  • Medical play is a great way to talk to kids about cancer. It alleviates the fear of the unknown, by introducing some of the tools doctors use that might seem frightening at first.

Talk to Kids about Cancer

Here are some more tips for finding out what’s on their mind:

  • You might worry that when you talk to kids about cancer, it will make them think about frightening things. The truth is, they’re already thinking these things. Talking will bring their ideas and fears to the surface where you can examine them in the open, together.
  • Say, “I recently read that some children feel . What you think about that?” I did this once and was amazed by the answers my children gave me. For the first time, I learned many of their fears. It helped me to communicate with them and be sensitive to the things they felt most deeply.
  • Don’t push. Let them tell you what’s on their mind in a way and time that is comfortable for them.
  • Sometimes, doing an activity like coloring helps kids to open up. Their conscious mind in concentrating on the relaxing activity, allowing their subconscious thoughts to come to the surface. Make this a light conversation from which you can glean their thoughts about what’s happening.

Empathize

Often, once a child knows about their parent’s diagnosis, each appointment will bring a measure of anxiety. This can be a teachable moment for your child. You can start by talking about your own anxieties, in a way that can encourage a calm, soothing conversation. Validating your child’s feelings can be so empowering for them. When they’re allowed to express them, you’re essentially saying, “Yes I’m sure you’re worried and that’s okay. I’m worried too.”

Here are some other things you can say

“Today I’m going in for a special test that will let the doctors know how I’m doing. I’m wondering if you might have any concerns about this.”

“I know that I’m a little worried, so I thought you might be worried too. Should we talk about our fears and worries?”

“I’m going to go to the doctor to put together a plan. We’ll figure this out together. If anything changes, I’ll let you know.”

“We’re walking side-by-side in this. I want to take care of you too”

This can be very reassuring for your child. It will often ease their concerns since they can trust that you won’t keep them in the dark. They can, in a sense, put their fears on a shelf. They’re still there, but they’re in their place.

Talk to Kids About Cancer

What to Avoid

What you’ll really want to avoid are the curt, dismissive assurances that people often give.

Some examples of phrases to avoid are:

“Your Mom will get better soon.”

“Don’t worry everything will be all right.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine.”

What Not to Avoid

No parent wants to have this difficult conversation with their children. It can be tempting to try to brush the whole thing off as no big deal. Whatever you do: Avoid avoiding.

It’s also HOW you say it

People tend to speak rapidly when they’re nervous. They get repetitive when they feel anxious.  “Fast paced, repetitive responses never dig into the nitty-gritty of the truth and can make a child feel completely dismissed. Dismissive comments reinforce the idea that cancer is taboo and that we shouldn’t talk about it.

“This can leave them thinking, “I shouldn’t ask my mom and dad questions. I should protect them. can be a role reversal, where the mom and dad want to protect their children and the children want to protect their mom and dad.” (Melissa Turgeon)

A Better Way

Instead, a healthier way to talk to kids about cancer is to ask, “How much do you want to know? Do you want to know it all, or are you the type of kid that just wants the facts?” Asking this question, you’ll hear from the child what they want to know. “You can ask the child who wants to know everything, “Do you want to come to the clinic appointment with me?” Sometimes your child will say, “No, just give me the basic facts of what is going on.” Other times they’ll say, “I’m going to be a doctor when I get older.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

Originally posted 2018-03-26 07:00:58.


Ways to Offer Help when a Friend has Cancer

Have you ever gone to the store, or a restaurant and struggled to decide between all of the great options in front of you? It’s a common problem known as “choice overload.” This term was first introduced in the book, Future Shock by Alvin Toffler in 1970. With all of these great options, choosing becomes overwhelming. It takes longer to make a decision and often the decider gives up, altogether. This is really simplifying Toffler’s theory but it’s one of the reasons why many cancer patients and caregivers decline offers of help from friends and family members. Today, I will share how to overcome choice overload and find ways to offer help when a friend has cancer using multiple choice care coordination.

Where the burden of support lies

Usually, when someone is in need of help, we expect them to ask. It seems simple enough. People do it every day. Unfortunately, something as overwhelming as cancer can completely shut down a person’s normal ability to strategize and plan how to cope with the situation. All of their attention is focused on the medical aspect of cancer. The diagnosis process is intense. Often the patient is asked to make many appointments for test after test. They have to learn all about a disease that they likely know little about, and then make decisions about which course of treatment to pursue. At the same time, life goes on with its obligations of work, parenting, and other activities.

While it would make sense to ask for help, it feels a bit like trying to get the carnival ride operator to stop the Tilt-a-Whirl so they can get off. Instead, most patients and caregivers hope that things will soon settle down so that they can regain their balance.

As a Supportive Friend or Family Member:

When you hear that someone you care about is facing cancer or some other life-altering illness, you want to somehow help. The question is, how? What are some ways to offer help when a friend has cancer?

  • You also experience a bit of choice overload. There must be so many things that your friend needs. how can you fill the void? You wish you could just make it better, but you can’t. You might wonder how anything you think of to do, could make any difference at all.
  • It’s common to assume they must already have a lot of help. There is probably some organized system in place complete with a meal rotation, prayer chain and other ways to offer help when a friend has cancer. It’s easy to feel like you would just be one more person underfoot. Maybe they already have enough meals or rides.
  • Then, there’s the question of offering the help. You want to let them know you care and that you’d like to help, but, how? What if you say something “wrong?”
  • There is also a bit of mystery surrounding the home life of someone so ill. It’s easy to picture their home as a somber place of silence. What if you call and the ring of the phone wakes your friend from a much-needed nap? We’d sure hate to bother the caregiver who, as I wrote about in the last post, may have collapsed with exhaustion. So, we put off calling.

When you offer to help

Despite all of these mental obstacles to the ways to offer help when a friend has cancer, you run into your friend at church or in the supermarket. You don’t say it because you are kind, but it’s obvious that they are frazzled by all the responsibilities of life and caring for their spouse. This is your chance to let them know you would like to help. But, how? Maybe you’ve heard that bringing a meal is helpful, but you don’t cook. You try to think of something else they might need help with, but never having had cancer, you just don’t know. So, you resort to asking, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Nearly always, your friend will shake their head and say, “No. I can’t think of anything right now, but thank you.” Or they will say what I often do. “Please keep us in your prayers.”

Whew! That was easy. You feel like you dodged a bullet. They know you care. Just to seal the deal you say, “Please let me know if you need anything.” You mean it with all your heart. But, your friend doesn’t call. Maybe they are doing okay. After all, if the needed anything, they would have called. Right?

Wrong

Patients and caregivers are feeling overwhelmed, Caregivers, in particular, feel like it’s their job to care for their loved one. So, they try to do it all. Then, they become exhausted. Eventually, they realize they might not be able to do this alone. After all, this could be a long road and they’re wearing out fast. Who can they ask for help?

Then you see you at church or in the supermarket. You heard from another friend that their spouse is ill and you are very sympathetic. You want to help and ask if there is anything you can do. They search their overwhelmed brain, knowing that there must be something, but at the moment, they can’t think of anything. How can that be, they wonder. You say, “Please let me know if you need anything.” That’s so nice of you.

They thank you and go home.

They think, again about how nice it was that you offered to help. What could they ask of you?  They hate to ask for a meal (especially caregivers who are wives). After all, you work a full-time job and have responsibilities of your own. And while a caregiver’s to-do list is a mile long, they couldn’t ask you to help them take their car in for maintenance, or clean the garage as winter is setting in. Surely, you weren’t offering to help with that kind of thing (even though those responsibilities are weighing on them).

Some Problems

I come from Minnesota where we have the phrase “Minnesota Nice.” Sometimes we can nice ourselves out of the very thing we need.  As a caregiver who doesn’t want to be a bother to others, we hesitate to ask for help, even when it’s offered.

Most people will approach the patient, not the caregiver when they think of ways to offer help when a friend has cancer. Sometimes a caregiver would gladly accept the offer but the patient declines it, thinking it’s not really necessary. Often patients don’t realize everything a caregiver is juggling. To minimize this miscommunication, if you really want to help in some way, check with both the patient and the caregiver. This is important, even if you don’t know the caregiver as well (or at all) as the patient. This will really speak to the sincerity of your offer and will surely touch the patient and caregiver’s hearts.

Ways to offer help when a friend has cancer

When you have a loved one who you would like to help, don’t get derailed trying to do just what they need. Yes, you heard that right! The truth is, half the time, they are too overwhelmed to know what they need. Instead, follow these three steps and you will be able to help:

  1. Think about the things you are good at.
  2. Come up with three different things you can do for your friend to lighten their load or brighten their day.
  3. Then say, “I’ve been thinking about you so much, lately. I would really like to help. Here are 3 things I can offer.  Would any of them be helpful to you?”

Don’t get hung up on the number. Maybe you only have one thing. That’s okay. Three is the maximum because anything more will turn an easy decision into a hard one. The beauty in this is that you can do something you are good at, and it may be just what they need. I call this multiple choice help.

Ways to Offer Help when a Friend has Cancer

 

Out of the Box ways to offer help when a friend has cancer

We have a friend who when we were moving, said, “I would really like to help you but I don’t cook. I do organize well, though. I know you are moving. Could you use my help packing? I could even bring boxes.” She was an angel from heaven! Afterall, who offers to help someone move? Only an angel.

Never feel like the thing you offer is less than what someone else may do to help. You are lifting a burden in your own special way. By offering specific help, you are also giving that person explicit permission to take you up on it. They will know you aren’t just trying to be polite.

Utilize Social Media for Care Coordination

While you likely won’t need to worry about the specific coordination of help (unless that is one of the ways to offer help when a friend has cancer you want to follow through on). But it is a good idea to find out which of these systems if any, that your friend is using.

We are more connected than ever by the internet. There are wonderful tools that you can use to facilitate getting help. My favorite is Caring Bridge. Many people know that it gives you the ability to update family and friends on your condition by writing a journal entry. It also has a planner. You can put anything you need help with on the planner and your friends sign up to help with any task that works for them.  I particularly like that you aren’t limited to meal requests.

If your primary need is a regular meal, Take Them a Meal is the perfect meal coordination site.

Another care coordination site is Lotsa Helping Hands. I personally didn’t find it as easy to use as Caring Bridge, because we had already built up a community on our Caring Bridge site. But if you are new to this, Lotsa Helping Hands is worth checking out.

While there are sites specializing in care coordination, some people choose to use Facebook, either just posting to their personal page, or by creating a specific page or Facebook group for the patient. Using Facebook, they can update friends and family as well as ask for help when the need arises.

And of course, there is always the good old-fashioned phone tree. This requires someone to coordinate the calendar and mobilize people, but it gets the job done. It’s also perfect for prayer requests.

A few more ways to offer help when a friend has cancer

  • Don’t feel unappreciated if they don’t send you a “Thank You” card. While that would normally be Facing Cancer as a Friendproper etiquette, understand that they are swamped, and greatly appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness.
  • Try to bring meals in containers that you don’t need to have returned. Let them know that they can keep them or throw them if they are disposable. That way, they need not worry about whether they’re expected to get them back to you. If you do need a crockpot or other container returned, schedule a time when you can come to pick it up. Also, put your name on it.  A few times, I’ve found Rubbermaid dishes in my closet and wondered where they came from. So, the name helps.

It is a blessing to be helped, and a greater on to help a friend in need. Check out the many ways to offer help when a friend has cancer and more ideas, in my book, Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone who has Cancer.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-07-16 07:00:13.


caregiving

This April I will be participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Every day (except the 2nd -5th Sundays) bloggers post to their blogs something that pertains to a specific theme (usually) as well as the letter of the alphabet assigned to that day. Today is the day when participants reveal their chosen theme, or if they are going to go themeless. Since I am deep in the trenches of caregiving, this year Facing Cancer with Grace’s theme is…

Caregiving

Five years ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. His doctors didn’t expect him to survive very long. I was a new caregiver, unsure of how to approach this new role. Since then, I’ve learned that caregiving is hard. That might seem obvious, but people who’ve never walked in the shoes of a caregiver often don’t realize that we’re on the journey, too.

How do we balance the emotional needs of the patient, other family members, kids, and perfect strangers who insert themselves into our lives?  How do we take care of our own needs when the needs of the loved one we are caring for seem so pressing?

I’ve been on this caregiving journey for over 5 years, and I’m still no expert at this. But I have learned a few things and I hope to encourage you.

A to Z in 2 Places!

I’m doing double duty this year during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I will be doing the challenge here at Facing Cancer with Grace, and also at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list.

To give you a preview of some of the posts I have (and will have) written, I am posting the schedule. These links will go live when the post is up at 7 AM CST on the following dates:

April    Title/Topic

1              A – Anger & the Grief Process

2              B – Boundaries & Caregiving

3              C – Critical Family Members

4              D – Depression in Caregivers

5              E – Exercise Lowers Stress

6              F – Funeral Home – First Visit

7              G – Guilt Caregivers Feel

8              No Post

9              H – Honesty: Your Authentic Response

10             I – Ideal You vs. Real You

11             J – Joyful Despite Cancer

12             K – How Kids Understand Death

13             L – Living With Cancer

14             M – Memories & Terminal Cancer

15             No Post

16             N – No: The Power of Saying No

17             O – Snake Oil Salesmen

18             P – Plan B: A Change in Plans

19             Q – Quality of Life

20             R – Relax: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

21             S – Sleep Problems When You’re a Caregiver

22             No Post

23             T – Time Management & Cancer

24             U – Unrealistic Expectations & Parental Guilt

25             V – Video of Tagrisso and Our Story

26             W – 6 Nuggets of Caregiving Wisdom

27             X – The Daily Examen (Not technically an X word, but close enough)

28             Y – Young Adult Caregivers Ages 18-26

29             No Post

30             Z – Zero in on Self-Care

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

Originally posted 2018-03-19 07:00:25.


Asking for Prayer

Dan has had significant shortness of breath in the past month or two, so we were very concerned about the results of a scan he had last Monday, 3/12/18. We were asking for prayer that we would have wisdom as we proceeded to deal with whatever the doctor had to say. I feel that God has answered and will continue to answer that prayer. Last Friday, 3/16/18, we had a very sobering conversation with Dan’s oncologist. The results of his scan were a mixed bag. We saw some definite improvements in the scan, enough to continue his current treatment.

There was also some progression.

She spoke very frankly about what needs to happen next. She’s referring him to the Mayo for a second opinion because once Dan is done with this treatment; she has nothing more to offer him. The hope is that Mayo might have a trial that isn’t being publicized (We regularly look for trials on a national trial finding website and haven’t found any that fit Dan).

The Mayo also has oncologists that specialize exclusively in lung cancer. She feels like having another set of eyes and experience could be helpful in finding an approach. Perhaps a traditional single agent that Dan hasn’t tried could buy some time. We are asking for prayer that there would be something for him at Mayo that would be helpful, There are concerns about symptoms he’s experiencing (vision changes, back pain from a spinal metastasis and terrible pain under his armpit which she suspects is from one of the spinal metastasis pressing on a nerve).He needs to have 2 MRIs done next Tuesday on his brain and his thoracic region to investigate his symptoms. If they find out what is causing the armpit pain and vision changes, they can treat it with radiation.

She referred him to palliative/hospice care for a consult.

He will see them on Thursday when he has his next chemo. She wants us to review his health care directive and bring it with that day. She is concerned about the possibility of a blood clot preventing him from breathing properly. Cancer cells throw off clotting agents. So, she wants him to consider what we want emergency services to do at that time. I won’t go into any more of the details, but suffice it to say, it was a difficult conversation. We’ve approached this point before, but it isn’t any easier the second time around. We are asking for prayer that the palliative care consult will benefit his quality of life.

How Are We Doing?

Some people have asked how he is doing. It’s difficult to say. How are the kids doing? That’s also hard for me to know. I’m really not sure of how am I doing as a caregiver, a wife, and mom. So, how can I know how they are doing? It’s something we aren’t really talking about right now, which may seem strange, but sometimes it’s good to sort out your feelings before you try to talk about it. Still, I really appreciate friends and family asking. I wish I had a better answer. I’m sure at some point I will be better able to express it in words.

I can tell you that I’ve been having a hard time sleeping. When I do sleep, it’s fitfully, with nightmares. It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning because I’m experiencing some symptoms of depression. I’ve been surprised at how angry I’ve felt, recently. I am SO angry. I can’t even put my finger on what I’m angry about. Sure, “cancer” would be the obvious answer, but it feels more generalized. I try to keep it bottled up, but that doesn’t really deal with the issue. I anticipate I will transition to some other stage of grief at some point. So, I am asking for prayer for these issues to be resolved.

Where to Go from Here

In the past, our family has always taken a vacation. We can’t do that this year. Instead, we are doing something we’ve talked about for a long time—a staycation. We’re looking for fun, low-cost things to enjoy doing as a family, and have quite a list going. We’re asking for prayer that we can have a wonderful time making memories as a family.

I’ve also made some decisions about how I will personally proceed from here. I’ve decided that I will concentrate on caring for my husband and kids. So, I’ve bowed out of a few things that I normally do. They will be there in the future. I will still facilitate monthly Jack’s Caregiver Coalition caregiver klatches. I have to keep my sanity, somehow.  I’ve been praying about this and I’m at peace with it. I will of, course, still write. Once I get my new orthotics, I will perhaps take a walk each morning if my feet hold up.

Preparing

On a more practical level, I may have a cleaning party if we need to call in hospice. We will need to rearrange some things to make room in our smallish townhome. Dan has talked about putting together a honey-do list and having his own manly version of this. It seems overwhelming to think about. Any caregiver will tell you that a lot of stuff gets glossed over on the home front.

We are also asking for prayer for:

  • cancer to die and Dan to live
  • continued wisdom as we make decisions
  • all of our kids to be at peace during this time
  • Summer to be able to keep up with work and school while coping with this emotional blow
  • nothing to slip through the cracks

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-03-19 00:48:57.


Praying for someone who has cancer

This week we got news that my husband’s recent scan was not good at all. We will eventually be going down to the Mayo clinic to see what they recommend in the way of experimental treatment. In the meantime, he is doing relatively well, despite how bad is insides look. People often ask what they can do. I say, “Just pray.” I don’t mean that to sound like it’s some last resort. It’s really truly uplifting to know that people are praying for us. If you are a Christian, praying for someone who has cancer is the best thing you can do. But how? With a problem so big, it can be hard to find the words.

Here’s a list of ways you can be praying for someone who has cancer

It isn’t long, but it is powerful. I would recommend really personalizing this in your prayer time. Think about what, specifically, your friend is facing, and pray for that. This list is more of a mind jogger.

You may want to pray for one of these areas each day, or if something, in particular, is causing the most trouble for your friend, focus on that for a few days. Our family sometimes divides these areas between us at our evening prayer time. Each of us is interceding for a different part of our friend’s life.

Use these ideas in any way that works best for you. And listen for God to respond in your heart. Often, He will call you to be the answer to the prayer you pray!

Things to keep in mind when praying for someone who has cancer:

  • Wisdom: For decisions that the patient, their family, and their caregivers, both professional (medical) and non-professional (family and friends)must make.
  • Financial Needs: For provision to meet bill payments, and the daily needs of the patient and his/her family
  • Physical Needs: Including comfort and healing. Pray specifically for any physical problems the patient is facing
  • Emotional Needs: For the peace of God to transcend the fear that cancer can cause for the patient and his/her loved ones
  • Spiritual Needs: For God’s presence to be felt, undeniably, in the midst of this difficult time. To be at peace with God
  • Practical needs: That friends and family would come alongside the patient and his/her immediate family to lift their burdens. This can be done through, meals, acts of service gifts, and encouragement. Also, pray about how God can use you to participate in this.

Facing CancerMore ways to help a friend with cancer

If you feel up to helping with some of these needs, but aren’t sure how to go about it, read Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, available on Amazon.com. It’s full of ideas to help you use your gifts and skills to help others in a way you’re comfortable.

 

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2018-07-09 07:00:49.


Lung Cancer Awareness

It’s still October, but I want to remind you a few days early that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a big deal to me, personally, because lung cancer has affected so many people I have known and loved. Most of my readers know that my husband was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer almost exactly 6 years ago. not long before that, my stepmother died of lung cancer. We’ve had many friends who have been diagnosed with lung cancer. One thankfully is still alive and well.

Next month, I will be posting a series on breathlessness. So I thought I would take this opportunity to share some facts and statistics about the most deadly cancer.

Our Lung Cancer Awareness Story

In October of 2012, my husband discovered hardened enlarged lymph nodes above his left collarbone. He was 51, healthy, and the father of 6 children (3 of whom were still young). He’d never smoked, yet, his doctors soon diagnosed him with stage IV lung cancer. Our world turned upside down.

At the time my husband was diagnosed, he had none of the symptoms you associated with lung cancer, no cough, no trouble breathing. He had terrible back pain that he thought was from a pulled muscle. The pain was actually due to cancer that had already spread to his spinal cord.

When he felt those lumps, he immediately called to get an appointment with the doctor. We would have to wait 3 long days for that appointment. In the meantime, we searched the internet for answers. All of the reputable websites suggested that his symptoms were consistent with metastatic lung cancer.

We kept looking. There was no way it could be lung cancer. Dan had never smoked. He was a realtor and a pastor. He wasn’t working around respiratory hazards. We were wrong. Non-smokers get lung cancer too.

Asking for Prayer

False Assumptions: Real Facts

Most people assume that they don’t need to worry about lung cancer. While most women are aware of their risk of breast cancer, a recent survey that looked at awareness and perceptions about lung health showed that 98% of women don’t even have lung cancer on their health radar. 78% of women don’t know that lung cancer has killed more women than breast cancer each year since 1987. It’s time to raise lung cancer awareness.

Not a Statistic

It is important to keep in mind that a patient is a person, not a statistic. People are unique. Therefore, they will each respond to various treatments in their own unique way. Other factors affect survival, such as age and health at the time of diagnosis. Adherence to a treatment plan as well as the severity of side effects from treatments are factors in survival. Often, whether someone has more or less success than anticipated on a given treatment seems to be as predictable as a roll of the dice. By communicating well with a board-certified oncologist you trust, you have a greater chance of increasing your survival.

Perhaps my favorite story about statistics is my husband’s. When a doctor told him that he had a 4% chance of surviving 5 years, he said, “Someone needs to be in the 4%. It might as well be me.”

Still, statistics do tell a story

In the case of lung cancer, it is a frightening one. It is a story that propels us to take lung cancer awareness seriously.

  • About 14% of all new cancers are lung cancers.
  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer combined.
  • One reason lung cancer so deadly is because it is usually asymptomatic until it has metastasized (spread throughout the body).
  • Because of this, half of all lung cancers are already staged IV by the time they are diagnosed.
  • Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers accounting for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
  • Another cause of lung cancer is asbestos, Nonsmoking asbestos workers are 5X more likely to develop lung cancer than non­smokers not exposed to asbestos. If you’re a smoker and you’ve been exposed to asbestos, your risk of developing lung cancer increases 50 fold.

5 Year Survival Rates for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Not everyone wants to know the statistics of the cancer they or a loved one are facing. If you are one of those people, look no further. If you want greater lung cancer awareness, read on. What follows are the most recent statistics using the current AJCC staging system. The percentage listed is the percentage of patients diagnosed with the given stage of NSCLC who survive 5 years. They are based on thousands of people worldwide, who were diagnosed with NSCLC between 1999 and 2010. These survival rates include people who die from causes other than cancer. Rates are approximations. (American Cancer Society 1)Lung Cancer Awareness

  • Stage IA1   92%
  • Stage IA2   83%
  • Stage IA3   77%
  • Stage IB     68%
  • Stage IIA    60%
  • Stage IIB    53%
  • Stage IIIA   36%
  • Stage IIIB   26%
  • Stage IIIC   13%
  • Stage IVA   10%
  • Stage IVB  Less than 1%.

It’s important to keep in mind that even with these grim statistics, there are often many treatment options available for people with these stages of cancer.

Take this quiz to see if you should be screened for lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Awareness Reminder:

You don’t have to be a smoker to get Lung Cancer!

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnote: American Cancer Society, Non-Small Cell Cancer Survival Rates by stage


cancer survivorship tip

When people hear that my husband has survived for 6 years with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer they often ask me what our top cancer survivorship tip would be. So in honor of his 6th cancerversary, I have put together some of the best advice we have used and continue to use.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #1

Get Educated

I don’t mean that you should read articles filled with pseudoscience. You should find out exactly what kind of cancer you have and what the newest and older treatments for this cancer are. How can you expect this cancer to affect your life in the near future? One of your best resources will be your oncology team. That brings us to the next tip…

Cancer Survivorship Tip #2

Build a Trusting Relationship with your Oncology Team

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your appointments are a time to check in with your doctor and to get any unanswered questions addressed. It’s helpful to write down these questions in advance. When you see your doctor, fire away. He or she will be glad to know what’s been happening with you since your last visit. As you doctor answers your questions, write down what he or she says. It’s easy to forget if it’s not written down. Better yet, bring your caregiver along so they can write everything down. Two sets of ears are better than one.

Also, be honest and open about medications you are taking (including over the counter meds like Tylenol or antacid) and symptoms you may be experiencing. Those details can have a big impact on your treatment. Some cancer treatments don’t work properly if you are also taking antacids, but your doctor can give you a special antacid that is safe to take with your treatment. Some symptoms are important indicators of whether or not you are getting too much treatment or that the treatment isn’t working and it’s time to change to something new.

Oncology Care Teams

Cancer Survivorship Tip #3

Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion

This is especially true if you don’t trust your oncologist for some reason.  Check in with another clinic and see what they have to offer.Atn the beginning of my husband’s cancer journey, he visited the Mayo Clinic for a 2nd opinion. They told him he was already getting top notch treatment. This helped him feel more secure about the plan his oncologist had put together for him. Later on, when his oncologist ran out of options, she sent him back to the Mayo Clinic to be enrolled in a clinical trial. This opened up a new avenue of treatments to try. There is no room for ego in cancer treatment.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #4

Ask about Genome Testing[1]

Checking for genetic mutations can help your doctor find targeted treatments for your specific cancer. These treatments are often more easily tolerated than traditional chemotherapy. Many are available in oral form, making them easier to take. By trying a treatment specially targeted for your mutation, you increase the likelihood of it working. That’s a win-win!

Also, get retested after a couple of years. This area of oncology is a rapidly changing one. New mutations are being discovered all the time, and with them, new targeted treatments are being developed.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #5

Don’t shun older treatments

Sometimes patients get discouraged when their only available option is an older, traditional chemotherapy. No doubt, this is a tough pill to swallow (or more accurately, a tough infusion to take), but this can also be the treatment that gives you extra time. That extra time might mean a new treatment becomes available. That’s what happened three years ago when my Tagrisso came on the market. The time a traditional chemotherapy gives you might also mean that a trial becomes available. That’s what happened recently for my husband. And even if neither of those happens, a traditional chemotherapy is often the ideal treatment option for a cancer patient. It could bring you into remission or treat your cancer altogether. Your doctor will be able to give tell you what to expect.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #6

Have a good support system in place—and use it.

This could include a primary caregiver, family, friends, online cancer support communities, your oncology care team, your faith community, long-distance support, and neighbors. A communication tool like CaringBridge is an ideal way to tell your loved ones what’s happening with you.[2] You can help coordinate help via the planner. You can schedule more than just meals with it. Consider using the planner to ask for help with errands and rides to the doctor as well. It is as useful as you allow it to be.  Family and friends wish more than anything that they could cure your cancer. Since they can’t, let them do the next best thing by allowing them to help you and your family out during this difficult time.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #7

It’s okay to change direction in your journey

We often hear the message that you have to stay strong and fight. Sometimes, the thing that requires the greatest amount of strength is knowing when it’s time to take the gloves off. This is not a failure. This is another part of your journey. It is a time of inner healing and relational healing as you pull your loved ones close and say the things that are often left unsaid until the end of a life. In the United States, we are so focused on how to live well. One thing we don’t teach in our society is how to die well. There is an art to it. It takes a community. Only you know when it’s time to transition from one leg of the journey to the next. Hospice is the ideal way to make this transition. It’s a team approach to end of life care. It isn’t just for the last week of your life. Anyone with a life expectancy of 6 months or less qualifies for hospice care. It has been proven that patients on hospice actually live longer, more comfortable lives than their non-hospice counterparts.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #8

Pray

Our family prays, not just for our situation, but for other families we know or hear of who are going through this same thing. If you have a faith life, I highly recommend praying. I’m not the only one. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. My 1st rheumatologist was an amazing doctor. He was a devout Muslim who ended up going back to his home in Pakistan. Before he left he gave me a parting piece of advice. “You believe in God? Pray. I truly believe that prayer will help you. It will center you and give you greater peace. This will help to reduce pain.” That was non-denominational advice from a highly respected rheumatologist. To get through this cancer journey, we have prayed and continue to do so.

Cancer Survivorship Tip #9

Your Journey is Unique

No two cancers are alike. No two lives are alike. Because of this, it’s important that you don’t chase after fad cure-alls. Instead, get really grounded. Gather your tools, your support system, and your knowledge. Decide what you can do today. Tomorrow things may change, but today, there’s one thing you can do. Maybe it’s some information you need to read up on from your doctor, or setting up your CaringBridge.  Perhaps you have to look into help to get your kids through this. Whatever it is, just take it a step at a time.

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSONThe Erickson Family

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Footnotes:

[1] Not all patients have mutations with treatments available, but it is worth asking about.

[2] There are other sites available, but after trying several, I have found CaringBridge to be the easiest to use and the one my support system used the most. Feel free to use whatever site works for you and your family.


Grief in Children

This past month, I’ve been working on getting my upcoming book Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Child Cope With Your Cancer, published. At the same time, we have been trying to navigate our children through yet another setback in their dad’s cancer journey. There is a section of the book which focuses on grief in children. Because of what we are going through, this section of the book was especially difficult to write and edit. It was also especially important.

What is Grief?

“You may associate grief with the death of a loved one, but any loss can cause grief, including the loss of a relationship, your health, your job, or a cherished dream.” (Help Pages.org Grief and Loss)

Most people think that grief is something that they’ll deal with when someone they love dies. In truth, the process of grieving begins at the moment you realize you of a loved one has cancer. This is a huge shift in your life when the story you pictured for yourself changes. The outcome may not look anything like you’d hoped or imagined.

“Life will never be the same. You can never go back to that day before the clinic visit when you learned you had cancer.” -Melissa Turgeon, child life specialist with the Angel Foundation.

When a family learns that a parent has cancer, everyone’s routine changes. Some people are surprised when they see grief in children. Consider that there are some very practical losses your child will experience or anticipate, such as:

  • A very active and involved parent can suddenly become ill and need to sit on the sidelines.
  • A caregiving parent may suddenly devote all of their time to the patient-parent, leaving the kids with a sense of loss.
  • Our 18-year-old developed a keen awareness that it was unlikely her dad would ever walk her down the aisle or hold her babies.

Did that last one surprise you?

Brain development continues until children reach the age of 26. Unfortunately, grief in children ages 18-26 is often unrecognized. Grief in children looks different depending on the age and stage, as well as the personality of the child. Often, grief in children is manifested by physical symptoms like stomachaches and headaches. In fact, these signs may even be more prevalent than tears or anger.

It’s important to acknowledge the deep and profound loss each member of the family is experiencing. How this looks will be different for each person.

 

It’s easy to misinterpret the symptoms of childhood grief. While grief is as individual and unique at the person who experiences it, there are some common reactions and behaviors that are often seen in grieving youth.

Signs and symptoms of Grief in Children :

  • Physical complaints like headaches or stomachaches
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Lack of emotions (even about the death)
  • Separation anxiety
  • Feeling protective of parent and/or family members
  • Worrying about the safety of loved ones
  • Feeling responsible for the death (thinks that in some way he or she caused the death)
  • A change in behavior at school
  • Falling grades, hard time concentrating or paying attention, seems to “daydream” more
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Changes in appetite
  • Regressing (acting younger than they are)
  • Acting overly responsible for their age
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in friends and usual activities, even pushing away old friends
  • Worrying about another death occurring even their own death

A Different Schedule

Research has shown that grief in children and teens also happens on a different schedule than in adults. Because they don’t have the same cognitive capacity as adults, they can’t maintain a deep level of grief to the extent that adults do. Instead, children will show their grief off-and-on, in waves, over a period of many years. As a child grows older, grief will bubble up at different periods in life. When they reach new developmental stages or important milestones such as first dates, graduations, proms, and birthdays, the grief will rise again.

Seeking out youth grief services early on in a parent’s cancer journey can be very helpful. At this time, the support system that you’ve assembled, including professionals, family, and friends will be essential to ensuring your entire family is able to process their grief and continue to live despite the pain each person is feeling.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

 

 

 

Originally posted 2018-03-12 07:00:01.


talk to children about cancer

It’s important to talk to children about cancer-even with a “bleak” prognosis. My husband, Dan was stage IV, metastatic, when he was diagnosed. So, we have always been told that his cancer was terminal and that we were buying time. The best we could hope for was that he would be labeled NED, No Evidence of Disease (like remission). It’s especially difficult to talk to children about cancer when you are given such a bleak prognosis.

Our Story

One year into his treatment plan, Dan was declared NED (having no evidence of disease). This is a term used to describe what people think of as a state of remission in certain types of cancer. It means that the cancer is still there, it’s just too small to be seen on a scan.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be NED, even though we’d been told that it was only temporary and that at some point Dan’s cancer would rear its ugly head again. One thing that surprised me was how uneasy I felt, even during that time. The first thing that bothered me was that his scans were now farther apart. Instead of being every 6 weeks, they were every 3 months. What if cancer began to progress just after a scan, and rather than it growing, unchecked, for 6 weeks, it had 3 months to multiply? That question plagued me.

We were counting on God to give us the time we needed as a family, and we were counting on people to pray for us, so I also feared that because Dan was doing well, people would forget that we still needed prayer.

Our kids worried too.

In the back of their mind was always the list of “what-ifs.” It was especially bad just before a scan.

  • What had happened since the last scan?
  • Will we be able to stay the course, or will we suddenly have to learn about a new treatment?
  • What will be the new side-effects?
  • Will we have a new schedule, dictated by the chemo schedule?
  • Will there be another option when this one runs out–because it always stops working at some point.

How to talk to children about cancer:

Young Children

While most young children, will be able to quickly move beyond the cancer once treatment is done and you are feeling better, some children worry more than others and may need continued support. In these cases it is especially important to use care as you talk to children about cancer, giving them the reassurance they need, while still being honest.

Teens

Teens may avoid talking openly about their fears or concerns. They often feel a need to protect their parent by keeping their fears to themselves. It is often easier for teens to discuss their fears with someone outside the family. You can see if they would like you to help set that up with an adult they trust or can feel at ease talking to.
Kids tend to see things just as they are. Once you complete your treatment, life goes back to normal and you begin to look like your “old self” again, they’ll probably think that the illness is over. While you might want to tell your children that everything will be fine, it’s best to let some time pass before you give them any assurances, because unfortunately, cancer can recur or metastasize (spread to another part of the body).

Honesty is the Best Policy

  • Be honest about your feelings, with yourself and with your kids. They may be experiencing some of the same feelings that you are. Be honest about the fact that if the cancer returns, it will mean more treatment, of some sort.
  • During this time, you can–and should be happy.
  • There’s plenty to be happy about, and you can share those things together. Maybe you’re looking forward to not feeling nauseous anymore. If you lost your hair due to treatment, you can enjoy seeing it return (maybe even different from before).
  • Enjoy the moment, even if you don’t know what to expect in the future.

The Goal…

For people who have an “incurable” cancer, time is the goal, more time to spend doing the things God had called you to in this life, spending time with family and friends, leaving your mark. Remission, NED, stable disease, they are all good, but they are also another place in the timeline when cancer patients and their loved ones take a deep breath that they will hold a while longer. Talk to children about cancer-even if things look bleak.

In our case, we had reason to hope, even though, medically, it looked hopeless. Our hope was in the Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s been our strength throughout this journey. I’m glad we did hope because we’ve had 4 amazing years of memories, to date, that we might’ve otherwise missed.

 Just Released!!

Facing Cancer as a Parent:

Helping your Children Cope with your Cancer

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

ABOUT HEATHER ERICKSON

In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com

I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker

Originally posted 2018-06-25 07:00:50.

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